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Book giveaway this week: A Commonplace Killing by Sian Busby

(36 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 23-May-13 10:49:11

This week we have 50 copies of Sian Busby's A Commonplace Killing on offer this week. This gripping murder story reveals the dark truths at the heart of postwar austerity Britain. Sian Busby offers readers of Sarah Waters and Pat Barker 'a perfect whodunnit'. Apply for a free copy and come back to discuss the book on this thread.

Sian Busby died in September 2012 after a long illness. Shortly after she died her husband, BBC business editor Robert Peston, found the final part of the book handwritten in her notebook; he transcribed the final pages so that the book could be published posthumously. As he explains in the foreword to the novel, "I did not know, until reading handwriting as familiar as my own and hearing her voice in my head, that she had finished this exquisite work."

If you would like to make a donation to the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, the leading lung cancer charity, visit

Ness1234 Thu 30-May-13 11:00:16

Just received book, brilliant, will start reading!

countingdown Thu 30-May-13 12:48:41

Thank you very much, I just received a copy. Looking forward to starting to read it.

missmarplestmarymead Fri 31-May-13 12:15:07

My book came this morning: thank you very much indeed. Looking forward so much to reading it and exchanging views. When can we start posting about it and will it be on this thread?

Thanks again.

Liana83 Fri 31-May-13 16:00:15

I received my copy today and can't wait to start reading it, just need to finish reading my current book first...

Fiendarina Sat 01-Jun-13 07:13:27

Thanks so much for the book, which arrived just when I was looking for something new to read.
So, my thoughts as requested: it was definitely gripping, and I was keen to get to the end and know the resolution.
The post-war details were very evocative, from the frustrations of rationing (lengthy queuing, shortages, nastiness of powdered cheese, importance of clothing coupons) to the emotional wounds inflicted by war.
The decent if depressed DI and his perky and dedicated female driver were reminiscent of the dynamic in Foyle's War.
However, it was hard to like many of the other characters and in conveying the depressing reality of this corner of North London at this time, the book itself became depressing. I came away feeling grubby, and it left a nasty taste as if I'd eaten one of the brawn sandwiches myself.

Jossykaye Sat 01-Jun-13 21:06:49

Looking forward to getting stuck into this. Not my usual genre, so it will be nice to read something different.

Ness1234 Mon 03-Jun-13 11:17:34

I did read the whole book, whilst not my usual choice, it was good to read something different. I felt it sent a very clear message. War makes many more victims than those in who die in battle. It made me feel very grateful for the decade I was born in, and its a huge shame that others don't thank that generation that gave up so much for us. Yes, the thought of powdered cheese in any form was certainly grim!

missmarplestmarymead Mon 03-Jun-13 13:16:08

I was very impressed with the way the author managed to describe a claustrophobic atmosphere. I felt sympathy for almost all the characters, as they all seem to be trapped in some way as victims of the war.

I didn't particularly like the romantic longing of the detective for his female assisstant, as it seemed clumpy and contrived. I also wondered where he had got his back eye from-it was referred to a couple of times-the first being when the coroner mentioned that the victim would have given her killer a similiar one. Did I miss the explanation?

Overall though, I enjoyed the read and it did seem as if Ms Busby had done a great deal of research into the post war mood.

Kiwirose Mon 03-Jun-13 19:48:41

Goodness me you guys read quickly. I have just read the preamble so far and look forward to starting the actual text some time this week.

smileyhappymummy Wed 05-Jun-13 20:21:06

Definitely not what I would usually read but I did enjoy this book. It felt very dark and quite melancholy (not really a cosy bedtime read for me!) but was hugely evocative and made me think about what life must have been like post war.

JackieTheFart Thu 06-Jun-13 22:53:20

I have mine on my 'next to read' shelf. I love WW2 and post-war period books so am really looking forward to this book.

fal78 Fri 07-Jun-13 13:52:23

Just finished this book! I've enjoyed the story, particularly the descriptions of post war London. Although a dark subject I did find it quite a light read, nice and easy to pick up at the end of the day, and I would recommend it to my friends.

lilsupersparks Fri 07-Jun-13 16:09:56

Just finished the book - this is my review as published on my blog

There are no winners in this book - each narrator has a sad story to tell and Sian Busby's evocative style will draw you right into their lives. Set in bleak, grey post-war London, the characters are all doing their best to navigate themselves through the depressing, mutilated landscape of both London and their own emotions.

Lillian Frobisher lived a life of freedom during the war, only to be brought crashingly back to earth when her husband returned into a life of drudgery, struggling to make ends meet on meagre rations - always hankering after the forbidden luxuries denied to her whilst trying to remain respectable. In post-war Britain she is described by some as a scarlet woman, yet what she yearns for is what a modern woman would take for granted. The character of Policewoman Tring is perhaps a little more hopeful - although she is usually reduced to driving around the men of the force and, like Lillian, is expected to magic up sustenance (in the form of tea and sandwiches) from nowhere.

Busby also explores the scorn towards those men who did not go to war - who played a different part and the damage sustained by those who did. An unlikely parallel is drawn between Dennis, a criminal, and Cooper, the principal detective on the case. Two men both permanently damaged by their experiences of war, neither with any hope for the future. Rather like London itself, suffering under the weight of a crime wave as ordinary people struggle to gain some sense of self by turning to the black market for items advertised on billboards, unobtainable by legal means.

Although the novel liberally draws on the traditions of detective fiction - the lone detective figure, Cooper and some real noir elements - really the novel is less about solving the mystery and more about communicating the bleak nature of post war London - and this is something Busby does expertly. It doesn't make for an uplifting read, it's got to be said, but if you want to really feel what it was like to long for something other than spam, powdered egg and stale bread - whislt fielding propaganda telling you that you should be happy to be at peace, eating the healthiest way you ever had then this is the place to start.

violetwellies Fri 07-Jun-13 21:29:41

Well, Ive not really got my teeth into this yet, but am loving her style. Not so sure about the forward as I was going to pass the book on to a newly diagnosed friend to read, I'll have to find someone else now.

MereMortal Sat 08-Jun-13 13:51:39

This a dark novel full of unfulfilled hopes, deprivation and longing for something better.

None of the characters are particularly likable. They inhabit a world where the elation of the VE Day has come to nothing. Life remains bleak and tedious. The men have returned from the comradeship of brothers in arms not, to the brave new world they fought for but to a life of drudgery and getting by. While the women have lost the independence the war gave them and are expected to step back into the narrow confines of "nice" ladylike jobs. While their main role is one of caring for their home and family.

Despite the bleakness I did enjoy this book. I liked Sian Busby's writing style. It's an uncomplicated. but satisfying read.

reptilian Sun 09-Jun-13 21:19:52

It was a very easy read, but lacking in depth. The characters were not as 3 dimensional as they could have been; they seemed flat and lifeless. To me it read more like the summary of a script for a TV drama - which I feel would give it more life. I would have liked to have known more about Mum, Evelyn and Douglas. The Cooper character was the only likeable one.
I understand that this was published after she had dies, so the ending was added from her notebooks, but wasn't this the case with Suite Francais by Irene Nemirovsky. SFrancais in comparison makes CK appear bland and lacking.
I appreciate the bleakness of the narrative - but felt not explore in enough detail.

TotallyEggFlipped Mon 10-Jun-13 08:54:42

Just marking my place to come back and give a review when I've finished reading the book.

tomsmumautism Mon 10-Jun-13 11:06:25

This book has really stayed with me. It's such a compelling description of post war life - no money, queues for everything, no joy. It reminded me of Brighton Rock. Very few redeeming features in the characters and decency no guarantee of happiness. It's a fairly grim read but really interesting and evocative. Not a period of history we hear that much about, the absolute grind of living in late 1940s Britain. I'd recommend it.

Kiwirose Mon 10-Jun-13 21:18:57

Am I the only one who is finding this book hard to get into?

TotallyEggFlipped Tue 11-Jun-13 07:54:43

It is an intriguing crime novel. I thought it was unusual in style but a compelling read, I have been gripped from the beginning. I find the descriptions of the times well researched and informative. At times I really felt like I could have been in 1940s London.
A great book to recommend. I'll definitely be passing it on to friends.

violetwellies Tue 11-Jun-13 21:11:29

The one thing that marred the book for me was the relationship with the old lady.

Lillians mother soaked the towell she lay on then filled the po, yet she wasn't expected to drink half a cup of tea, this ruined the whole book. If she couldn't get this rather basic bit right what about the rest of it?
So I could either believe that Evie was looking after the old lady and making sure her fluid intake equalled her output,or Lillian was and the author forgot to mention it, thus making Lillian a much more likeable character.

This grated throughout the book and is still annoying me two days later.

missmarplestmarymead Tue 11-Jun-13 21:41:32

I agree with you, Retillian. each character had a back story that could have been fleshed out a little more.

I hadn't noticed that about the fluid intake and output but now that you've mentioned it......... (confused)

Liana83 Sat 15-Jun-13 22:14:05

Still trying to get into this book, I will pop back again soon with a little more insight hopefully...

Dianec67 Sat 15-Jun-13 22:43:28

Thank you for sending me this book. I found it hard to put down. The writer is very good at creating the setting and atmosphere of post war London especially its criminal blackmarket side. It was interesting to read a crime book of old fashioned policing instead of the more modern methods of DNA etc.

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